It’s not very often that people get to participate in life changing events. Most of our everyday is filled with relative routine. Be it school, work, family – or for those lucky enough to have a sugar-mama, PS2 all day – our lives tend to be 80% – 90% same ‘ol, same ‘ol.
Every now and then, however, we are given the opportunity to shake things up and do something really different. Now, I’m not talking about a killer vacation or a spontaneous invitation to go sailing. Don’t get me wrong, things like that are great, and we need to break the routine from time to time in order to keep our sanity. But I am specifically referring to those moments and those events that leave a lasting impression in our lives, and I am fortunate to have experienced one this past weekend.
I, along with Lee and several other close friends of mine, participated in the Relay for Life event for New Tampa. Relay is a fundraising event in which teams of participants walk, normally in shifts, around a track for 18 hours. The event began Friday afternoon at 6:00 PM and concluded Saturday morning at noon. There are various activities that take place in those 18 hours – from dodge ball tourneys, to live bands, to drag queen contests (yes, you read that correctly) – and the whole thing is really a great time.
What makes it special is that everyone is there for a common purpose. They are there walking to remember those that lost their battle with cancer, and to support those that survived and/or are currently fighting the disease. In addition to walking, each team usually conducts an on-site fund raiser at their camp site to continue raising money, all of which goes to the American Cancer Society. It’s a great cause, a great event, and a world of fun if you do it right. I was blessed to be accompanied by my friends and share that experience with them.
What really made it special for me was being out there with Lee. We both lost our fathers to cancer. We both had to deal with seeing our dads struggle, battle and eventually succumb to the effects of the disease. I think that is why Lee and I clicked so quickly when we first met, because we were both able to relate to each other’s loss.
I went into the event planning – actually, more like hoping – that I would get through it without getting emotional. I was the captain of my team, I was surrounded by my guys, there was a lot to do, etc. I had to keep the game face on at all times. But then came the Luminarias. The Luminarias are paper bags weighted down with sand and illuminated from within by a lit candle. Each bag was hand decorated by a child, and the ambiance that was created as the field lights were turned off is difficult to capture in words.
Lee and I set off to walk together during this special time of the event. We were both overwhelmed by the site of the candles and the tangible emotion in the air. She proceeded to talk about her dad and her memories of him. By this time her face was flooded with tears and all I could do was hold her close to me. I vowed I would be strong. Strong for her and for me. I would not cry.
But then I thought about my dad. I thought about how much I missed him, and how I hoped he was looking down on me from Heaven. I am not sure if the concept of pride exists when you’re in the presence of God, but I like to think he was proud of me as he watched over us that evening. In fact, I am still driven in all that I do to make my parents proud. And then I thought about how my dad was never ashamed to wear his heart on his sleeve and cry in front of others. The emotions became unbearable and the floodgates in my eyes ripped open.
It takes a special moment in life to make you cry uncontrollably. It also takes a special type of person to hold you closely as you do. To be there for you without reservation or hesitation. Someone who is there to support you and not judge you in the slightest. Special people beget special moments, and to say that embrace with Lee that night was special would be a gross understatement.
Lee and I have always connected. From the moment we met there was something intangible yet undeniable between us. Over the past 14 months, we’ve had our ups and downs and through it all, little by little, we’ve come closer and closer and closer. Last Friday night was one gigantic step as both our hearts connected in way they had not done before. The feeling was very tangible. It was tangible and electric and all those things you’ve ever dreamed it could be. All of it rolled into that one special moment.
I am thrilled that I can look back and say I took part in such a wonderful event. And not because the New Tampa Relay raised $115k, or because I got to see a different side of my friends (people are very different at 3:00 AM when they have not gotten any sleep), or because I walked away – albeit, barely able to walk – with a sense of pride and accomplishment. I am thrilled to look back and know that I shared that moment with Lee. That I came one step closer to a life with someone so special I can’t even begin to describe what she means to me. It doesn’t matter if it’s routine or out of the ordinary. Whatever it is, I want to do it with her.
For Leelee’s perspective on the event, click here.